Space companies worldwide want to bring more data to your devices, faster than ever before.
Entities ranging from SpaceX to Amazon are launching (or may launch soon) huge numbers of new satellites that can carry the extra bandwidth. And cellular network providers around the world are upgrading their equipment on the ground to meet the expected future demand.
This new technology is being built out for new 5G networks. It's touted as a big leap over current 4G technology, which allows you to do data-intensive things like stream Netflix.
Related: 5G Network: How It Works, and Is It Dangerous?
5G will be even better, Will Townsend, a senior analyst for market research firm Moors Insight & Strategy, told Space.com. Users will experience less latency, he said. Latency refers to the time it takes to send a packet of data to a receiver (like a cellphone) on a network. 4G networks have about 50 milliseconds of latency, and 5G networks are expected to be 10 times better, with latencies of less than 5 milliseconds.
This will result in a "faster and more responsive" experience, Townsend said in an email. "For consumers, this will equate to faster downloads and a non-buffered video playback experience," he said. "Mobile gamers will appreciate fast responsiveness." Business applications will range from remote manufacturing to telesurgery, he added, and there will be a "richer retail experience bridging online capabilities." The growth of 5G will also help to address the rise of the internet of things, or the proliferation of network-connected, or "smart," devices. There are already smart fridges, stoves and security systems, for example, and consumers are also using wearable devices that share bandwidth on crowded mobile networks.
Meanwhile, businesses have embedded tracking devices in locations such as shipping containers, oil and gas lines, and power generators, with each device providing real-time information on the status of the thing being tracked. This information is meant to make it easier for companies to respond if something breaks and to keep better track of shipments crossing the globe with manufactured goods. Whole industries may change with the rise of connected devices, such as driving (with the use of autonomous vehicles) or factories (with production lines that may be able to monitor themselves).
In the United States, the big four carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have already launched mobile 5G in a handful of metro areas. For example, as of July, Sprint had deployed mobile 5G in parts of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Kansas City, Missouri, according to an article Townsend wrote for Forbes. And deployment will continue for all carriers through the rest of 2019 and into 2020, he said.
In many cases, however, you won't be able to access the network with your older device. Once the infrastructure equipment is upgraded, consumers will need to buy new cellphones. Check your preferred brand carefully. "Samsung and Android devices will lead Apple by 18 to 24 months in handsets," Townsend said. But there is big potential for carriers, who "are spending billions globally to upgrade the networks because they see the potential in monetizing new services," he added.
On the business side, one of the big arguments for moving to 5G is the ability to participate in "Industry 4.0," or the fourth industrial revolution. This term commonly refers to factories embedded with wireless connectivity in their machines and equipment. Using emerging artificial intelligence, the goal is for the factory to monitor its own production line and to make changes as needed for safety, efficiency or other needs. Some analysts worry that AI could replace jobs and make unemployment rise, while others are optimistic, saying new job opportunities will arise with the new technology.
Related: Elon Musk Worries That AI Research Will Create an 'Immortal Dictator'
Many space entities are rushing to be trendsetters in 5G. For example, SpaceX has received approval to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink internet satellites (and recently applied to loft up to 30,000 more). In May, SpaceX launched its first 60 Starlink craft, which operate at a low-Earth-orbit altitude of about 342 miles (550 kilometers). (For comparison, the International Space Station orbits about 250 miles, or 400 km, above Earth.)
OneWeb has satellite-internet plans as well. The company plans to assemble a constellation of nearly 650 satellites to make web access easier around the world. OneWeb launched the first group of six satellites in February aboard a Soyuz rocket provided by European launch company Arianespace. These satellites circle Earth in near-polar orbits, at an altitude of roughly 750 miles (1,200 km). Amazon and Facebook are among the other companies planning 5G satellite networks.
The proliferation of 5G satellites in orbit raises a number of questions from industry observers. A big one is the rising risk of collisions, which could, theoretically, spawn huge populations of orbital debris. The world got an inkling of this risk last month, when a European satellite made a precautionary maneuver to dodge a potential collision with one of the SpaceX Starlink satellites.
Related: Space Junk Cleanup: 7 Wild Ways to Destroy Orbital Debris
There also are worries about radio-frequency interference with all of these coming satellites. Operators of weather satellites, in particular, are concerned about some of the authorized 5G frequencies approaching the 23.8-gigahertz frequency commonly used in weather forecasts. At this bandwidth, "water vapor in the atmosphere gives off a feeble signal," and the satellites can examine humidity in the atmosphere, even if the region is cloudy, Popular Mechanics reported. That said, both NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are negotiating with the Federal Communications Commission (which allocates spectrum frequencies to U.S. companies) to protect weather satellites, according to Popular Mechanics.
There's also concern that the abundance of satellites will interfere with sky observations. In June, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) expressed concern that thousands of satellites could interfere with the ability to examine dim and distant objects, not to mention the lives of nocturnal animals. "We do not yet understand the impact of thousands of these visible satellites scattered across the night sky, and despite their good intentions, these satellite constellations may threaten both," IAU officials said in a statement at the time.
As the 5G providers work out these kinks, there may be unpredictable effects of the new mobile technology, Townsend said. "Case in point: 4G LTE brought the capabilities required to make ride sharing a reality; no one really predicted that use case," he said. Townsend called this a positive development, as it "disrupted a multibillion [dollar] taxi cab industry [and] created new income opportunity" for individuals.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
- How Technology Is Transforming Executive Coaching - Harvard Business Review - December 1st, 2019
- Let us give thanks for the good technology - Business Day - December 1st, 2019
- Will the future of work be ethical? Perspectives from MIT Technology Review - TechCrunch - December 1st, 2019
- Adam Kay: the technology making life more complicated and driving us crazy - The Times - December 1st, 2019
- GeekWire Calendar Picks: How to live without a smartphone; new technologies in art; and more - GeekWire - December 1st, 2019
- This infographic reveals the top ten ways in which facial recognition technology could transform our lives - Digital Information World - December 1st, 2019
- Fujifilm Showcases Artificial Intelligence Initiative And Advances at RSNA 2019 - Imaging Technology News - December 1st, 2019
- UKtech50 2019 the most influential people in UK technology - ComputerWeekly.com - December 1st, 2019
- 3 Ways Technology Has Changed the Pet-Care Industry - Entrepreneur - December 1st, 2019
- The science and technology of keeping Singapore safe - The Straits Times - December 1st, 2019
- Video Conferencing Equipment Supplier, IVCi, Lists and Explains the Top AV Technologies for Government Services - PRNewswire - December 1st, 2019
- Four technologies tackling the problem of plastic pollution in rivers - Dezeen - December 1st, 2019
- Handbook of Nanomaterials for Manufacturing Applications, 2020 - Micro and Nano Technologies - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - December 1st, 2019
- GE Healthcare Unveils Novel Contrast-enhanced Mammography Solution for Biopsy - Imaging Technology News - December 1st, 2019
- Slowly, HIV is being beaten - The Economist - December 1st, 2019
- How Technology Is Improving The Future Of Home Service Installations - Forbes - November 27th, 2019
- Meet The Family Behind QWIN: Revolutionizing CBD Technology - Forbes - November 27th, 2019
- Why Technology Is Crucial For CRE -- And Why Investors Now Expect it - Forbes - November 27th, 2019
- Project Understood makes Google voice technology more inclusive to those with Down syndrome - TechRepublic - November 27th, 2019
- US commerce secretary to vet imports of sensitive technology - Financial Times - November 27th, 2019
- IDTechEx Research Reports: The Cardiovascular Disease Technology Market Will Exceed $40 Billion by 2030 - PRNewswire - November 27th, 2019
- Audio Visual Classroom Solutions, IVCi, Explains How AV Technology is Continuing to Shape the Future of Higher Education - MarTech Series - November 27th, 2019
- American Express Unveils The Shopping Technology of the Future as it Celebrates 10 Years of Small Business Sat - Black Enterprise - November 27th, 2019
- TSA testing new technology like "Innovation Checkpoint" and "digital dog nose" to speed up screenings - CBS News - November 27th, 2019
- How the technology behind deepfakes can benefit all of society - World Economic Forum - November 27th, 2019
- Gator Technology opens operations in Midland - Midland Reporter-Telegram - November 27th, 2019
- How cities are using technology to solve their trash problems - CNN - November 27th, 2019
- Katalyst Technologies and Bernstein Team Up to Provide Instructional Support for Chicago Schools - PRNewswire - November 27th, 2019
- Technology vendor of the year: Murex - Risk.net - November 27th, 2019
- Clean energy technology was thought to be uninvestable. One fund thinks otherwise - CNBC - November 27th, 2019
- Technology helps cut the cost of steel framing in new projects - Business in Vancouver - November 27th, 2019
- China's latest coal mania is alarming but green technology has already won the battle that matters - Telegraph.co.uk - November 27th, 2019
- The top technologies that enabled digital transformation this decade - TechRepublic - November 27th, 2019
- 'Maximize the positive' from new technologies, for our digital future, Guterres urges - UN News - November 27th, 2019
- Former CIA Director: We worried arming Ukraine would hand technology to Russian spies - NBC News - November 27th, 2019
- Technology talent pool on the rise in Greater Victoria - Times Colonist - November 27th, 2019
- 16 Predictions on the Future of Technology - Barron's - October 24th, 2019
- Technology Investment Must Go Beyond Single Use Cases - Government Technology - October 24th, 2019
- Samsung Showcases Its Latest Silicon Technologies for the Next Wave of Innovation at Annual Tech Day - Samsung Newsroom - October 24th, 2019
- We Could Go to Venus with Today's Technology, Scientists Say - Space.com - October 24th, 2019
- We Have the Tools and Technology to Work Less and Live Better - Singularity Hub - October 24th, 2019
- Why the World of WATCHMEN Rejected Technology - Nerdist - October 24th, 2019
- Electron Beam Technology researched at Texas A&M - KBTX - October 24th, 2019
- The most in-demand technologies for IT professionals - TechRepublic - October 24th, 2019
- Toledo Technology 5k to support battered women - 13abc Action News - October 24th, 2019
- Technology may make umpires a job of the past - New York Post - October 24th, 2019
- Broadway in Bed: Technology Is Remaking How We See the Ancient Art of Theater - NBC New York - October 24th, 2019
- BP to test technology to recycle plastic bottles again and again - Reuters - October 24th, 2019
- The Antique Technology Still Taking the Ocean's Pulse - Hakai Magazine - October 24th, 2019
- Twitter shares slump as revenues dip and costs rise - The Guardian - October 24th, 2019
- Caregiving Online Technology and Dementia: How to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe More families face dilemmas - Next Avenue - October 24th, 2019
- Looking back at the future of warfare - MIT Technology Review - October 24th, 2019
- Geospatial peacekeeping: How soldiers and technology can help fight poverty - Brookings Institution - October 24th, 2019
- How India's farmers are using technology to feed more than a billion people - CNN - October 24th, 2019
- 10 Technologies From Black Mirror That Have Already Been Invented - Screen Rant - October 24th, 2019
- Rayvolt's X One Redefines The E-Bike Category With 21st Century Technologies - Forbes - October 24th, 2019
- Sign of the times: Can hugging machines solve the touch crisis? - Big Think - October 24th, 2019
- HP Calls Out the Many Ways Technology Has Stripped Our Lives of Authenticity - Adweek - October 24th, 2019
- Our fears will be realised if we become afraid of technology - The Guardian - October 24th, 2019
- Gimbal technology and the endless push for innovation - Screen Africa - October 24th, 2019
- What happens if your mind lives for ever on the internet? - The Guardian - October 24th, 2019
- The Benefits Of Applying Blockchain Technology In Any Industry - Forbes - October 24th, 2019
- Live Caption, Googles automatic captioning technology, is now available on Pixel 4 - TechCrunch - October 16th, 2019
- Drones, apps and smart lockers: The technology transforming healthcare in Africa - CNN - October 16th, 2019
- Mind-reading technology is everyone's next big security nightmare - ZDNet - October 16th, 2019
- The 7 Biggest Technology Trends That Will Transform Telecoms In 2020 - Forbes - October 16th, 2019
- The Role Of Technology In The Evolution Of Communication - Forbes - October 16th, 2019
- The Revolutionary Impact Of Immersive Technology On Education - Forbes - October 16th, 2019
- Super-Resolution Imaging Technologies in Life Science | 2019-2024 Technology Highlights and Market Outlook - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - October 16th, 2019
- Schools should take the occasional break from technology - here's why - Study International News - October 16th, 2019
- Finding a balance between security and responsive technology - ITProPortal - October 16th, 2019
- NBN chief blames Australia's poor speed rating on 'unrepresentative' data - The Guardian - October 16th, 2019
- 5 smart home technology trends to keep your eye on in 2019 - Silicon Canals - October 16th, 2019
- Technology has changed the world, the world has changed technology - The Upcoming - October 16th, 2019
- Technology sparks dramatic rise in scams reported to the Lincoln Police Dept. - 1011now - October 16th, 2019
- Technology is redefining that client-financial advisor relationship - CNBC - October 16th, 2019
- APPIX Officially Launches Incredible Broadcast Technology That Creates Immersive Experiences And Audience Engagement At Concerts And Events - MarTech... - October 16th, 2019
- Gathr Lab Launches New Technology Set to Break the Black-Box Approach and Empower Marketers to Understand, Reach and Grow Their Audiences - Business... - October 16th, 2019
- Integrating the Science of How We Learn into Education Technology - Harvard Business Review - October 16th, 2019
- Google And Levis Partner Up To Bring Us Wearable Technology - Forbes - October 16th, 2019